Strengthen surveillance against Zika, WHO tells southeast Asia

New Delhi, Feb 2 (IANS) The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday urged southeast Asian countries to strengthen surveillance and preventive measures against Zika virus, already reported in 22 countries and territories in central and south America.

“There is a need for the South-East Asian countries to increase surveillance and take preventive measures against Zika virus which is strongly suspected to have a causal relation with clusters of microcephaly and other neurological abnormalities,” said Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO South-East Asia regional director.

The WHO has declared the recent clusters of microcephaly and other neurological abnormalities reported in the Americas as a public health emergency of international concern.

Khetrapal said the countries should build capacities of their laboratories to detect the virus and strengthen surveillance for cases of fever and rashes, neurological syndromes and birth defects.

The Zika virus, first discovered in Uganda in 1947, is spread through bites of Aedes aegypti mosquito, the vector for dengue. The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rashes, joints pain and conjunctivitis.

The illness is usually mild with the symptoms lasting a week. There is no vaccine for Zika virus disease at present.

Meanwhile, the union health ministry on Tuesday released a list of guideline to prevent the spread of Zika virus in India.

“All sectors that can assist should be engaged, and the public told about the risks and preventive measures against Zika virus disease. People can protect themselves against mosquito bites by using insect repellents, wearing clothes that cover as much of the body as possible,” an official statement said.

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